Sometimes motherhood is messy

This post might be a little gross.  I’m warning you now.

I think mothers have some uncanny awareness of the overall wellbeing of our kids.  We can tell when our kids are complaining of tummy aches to avoid finishing their dinners and we can tell when a tummy ache is about to become a big mess.  Imminently.  I surprised myself this week reading this sickness in my daughter.  The whole family had spent much of our Sunday watching UVA win the ACC tournament (spoiler alert: I’m loading some blogs into the hopper ahead of my launch… sorry if that seems disingenuous) and my girl tells me she isn’t feeling well.  Complains of a tummy ache but not in the way of a whiny eight year old hoping to get out of eating salad.  She seems genuinely uncomfortable, so I warn her to go run into the bathroom if she feels like she needs to be sick.  Don’t think I’m cruel, but cleaning up vomit is one of my least favorite jobs of motherhood.  Well, within the hour, I find Cari curled over the toilet, losing everything she’s had to eat all day.  My poor baby.  Over the next six hours, I’m putting her into the shower to clean her up after multiple episodes, cleaning the floors and sterilizing the toilet, washing clothes, and in general comforting my sweet, sweet girl, who, despite her sickness, apologized to ME for making a mess.  I could have wept.

I said that I surprised myself.  It wasn’t the fact that I had gotten it right, that I had guessed my kid was really sick, that had me surprised.  What had me surprised was the selflessness I managed in the hours that followed.  Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not trying to say that I deserve some mother-of-the-year award because I took care of my baby in her sickness.  In fact, my mothering is one of my greatest vulnerabilities, one of the areas in my life where I am most self-conscious.  I see awesome moms everywhere and I resent how “together” they have it: I’ve never been the kind of mom to make handmade valentines, to pack cute individual snacks for soccer, to write cute notes for Secret Santa gifts at dance.  In fact, I’m pretty selfish: I value my time reading, writing, working, and as a result I experience pretty epic mom guilt at not being the kind of moms I see at work or at church.  But when it came down to it, on this particular Sunday night, my baby had my undivided attention.  She had my every thought.  I found myself laying on the couch at 1:45 AM watching Veronica Mars so I could be awake and be available to her.  When I finally decided Cari had gotten through the worst of her bug, I moved into the bed with Stu where I tossed and turned until 3, waiting to hear if she needed me again.  I’ve spent much of today with her, mostly cuddling, because a fever has her pretty listless.  But I haven’t wanted to do anything else but be with her.

There is some pretty dangerous mom dialogue out there.  On the one hand, TV depicts all kinds of moms…  moms who scream at one another over leaked gossip, moms who manage to make three spectacular meals a day and blog about them, moms who drink so heavily they need their kids to look after them, moms who give up themselves in the interest of their children.  On the other hand, real life shows us all kinds of moms, too…  moms on Facebook who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with green pancakes and green smoothies (organic, of course) or moms at work who schedule play dates at the park complete with picnic lunches.  I’m guilty, too, of boasting on Facebook of how proud I am of Cari and her accomplishments.  And I am proud!  So very proud of my beautiful, sweet, smart, silly girl.  But I wish there was more realness in the world of motherhood: I wish I heard more of the struggles other mothers face, not because I would revel in anyone’s struggle, but because I see that I’m not alone.  Maybe then I could be more honest with my own issues.

At the end of the day, I’m snuggled in the bed with my little girl snuggled beside me, and she knows she’s loved and cared for.  I know that I’ve given her every bit of love and care I have inside me.  She has had a bad day, and even though it has been messy, we’re both content.  And I didn’t need any special show of motherhood to reveal how much I love my kid.

A few months ago, my church did a sermon series on this issue.  I’ve got this podcast loaded into my iPad for another listen, because I obviously need to hear it again.  Have a listen if you need the same encouragement I needed today.

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8 thoughts on “Sometimes motherhood is messy

  1. Allison, as a parent you always question your ability, your sanity, your reasonableness, and if you’re doing a good job as a parent. Where I sit as a proud parent, I know in my heart your a good mom. Your Mom knows your a good mom, and we both know your perception is not unique, your questioning of yourself is normal. I suspect you will get a lot of responses that echo that from other mom’s. As a dad and a parent, rest assured I am very proud of you. Love Dad

  2. I always doubt my parenting skills and my kids are 22 and 20. They turned out to be kind, productive, well-mannered citizens, but I still think back on how I could have made things better. I always wanted to be one of those moms who had it all “together”. I had my moments where I made a great snack or had a great party for my kids, but let’s face it, we are both teachers and that consumes a lot of our time. If 100% of your time was put in to being a mom you would have time to have it all “together” all the time. You are a wonderful teacher, wife, daughter, friend, and writer in addition to being a wonderful mother.

    • Thank you for this sweet comment. I know that Cari is doing great, and I need to remind myself that the small things are so important… that my girl loves to snuggle, she loves school, she’s open and funny and so sweet. In 20 years, I don’t know that she’ll remember that we didn’t perfectly coordinate every outfit or that I don’t braid her hair every day.

  3. None of us is perfect. We can admire other people’s successes (or boasts), but measuring ourselves against them is a big mistake. You have a lot going (the whole “burning candles” thing, right?), but when push came to shove, you followed your instincts and made sure Cari felt loved and secure throughout. (And vomit–definitely the worst!)

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